On the heels of the historic admission in April by consent order between the Government of Belize and the Maya Leaders Alliance (MLA) that the Maya system of customary land tenure gives rise to property rights within the meaning of the Constitution of Belize and an order that the Government develop a mechanism to recognize and protect Maya land rights in consultation with the Maya people, the only outstanding issue was the matter of damages for breach of constitutional rights and special damages concerning an incursion onto farm lands in Golden Stream village, Toledo District, by Mr Francis Johnston, now deceased. The CCJ delivered its ruling today, and found that the Government of Belize breached the Appellants’ right to protection of the law by failing to ensure that the existing property regime, inherited from the pre-independence colonial system, recognised and protected Maya land rights. A release for the court states, quote, “The CCJ emphasised that the protection of the law is linked to fairness and the rule of law. It demands that the State take positive steps to secure and protect constitutional rights and to honour its international commitments, including its obligations to protect the rights of indigenous peoples.” End quote.
Believing that there was a more innovative use available for the broad jurisdiction offered it to grant redress under the Belize Constitution, this was what the Court asked Government to do, as addressed by President Sir Dennis Byron at today’s judgment delivered by videoconference at the Supreme Court. The clip is courtesy the CCJ’s website.
Sir Dennis Byron, President, CCJ: The court eluded the plight of many people. The centuries of oppression they have endured and there are legitimate concerns about the damage to, and marginalization of their culture. Justice finds an innovative approach for the use of the Court’s jurisdiction to grant relief for brief retract of rights. As such, the court ordered that the Government of Belize establish a fund of Belizean $300,000 with the benefit of the Maya Communities in each district. As a first step towards compliance with the ruling set out to the consent order, to develop the consultation with the mere people in legislative, administrative, and other measures necessary to create an effective mechanism to identify and protect the properties and rights. In accordance to main customary laws and land tenure practices. The court has uploaded that the decision of the field of the issue of damages must be reimburse. Based on the indictment read protection of the law, the government will provide discretion granted to Courts constitutionally.
The court however, could not find sufficient evidence to support the Alliance’s claim for damages in the Golden Stream incident. President Byron explained why
Sir Dennis Byron, President, CCJ: The court held that the evidential basis of the plains advanced inhabitants, seeking damages for this involving Mr. Johnson was too imprecise to allow other damages that were ahead. Given that the special damages has sophisticated and educated approval. However, the court noted, the wide scope of the regress clause as contained in section 20 of the constitution and emphasized in the similar case of Pirajh against the Community General threaded legal number 2. The rules emphasized that the boundaries of regress are not reviewed as civil crime as the concept of damages. The court noted the plight of the Mayan people. The centuries of oppression they have endured and there are legitimate concerns about the damage to, and marginalization of their culture. Justice finds an innovative approach for the use of the Court’s jurisdiction to grant relief for brief retract of rights.
The court decision was unanimous. Government is to pay 75% of costs for the Alliance. A report to the Court on the timeline for the new regime on land is due next April. Monica Coc Magnusson and previously Antoinette Moore, Senior Counsel, served as Attorneys-at-law for the Maya Leaders Alliance while the Government of Belize was represented by Denys Barrow SC, Deputy Solicitor General Nigel Hawke and Ms Naima Barrow.